Conflict-related sexual violence “intensified” in 2023, according to a UN report published Friday April 19, which describes in particular “sexual assaults” committed by Israeli forces in the West Bank and “compelling reports” of rapes hostages taken to Gaza by Hamas.

“In 2023, with the emergence of new conflicts and the escalation of existing conflicts, civilian populations have been exposed to greater levels of conflict-related sexual violence, which has been intensified by the proliferation of weapons and increased militarization”, estimates the UN Secretary General in his annual report on this issue. Violence committed by state or non-state armed groups most often acting “with complete impunity”.

Rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancies, forced marriage… this violence continues to “be used as a tactic of war, torture and terrorism”, continues Antonio Guterres who reviews the situation in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Republic Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, Sudan, Mali and even Haiti.

Victims are “overwhelmingly” women and girls, but “men, boys and people of diverse gender identities have also been affected,” with most cases reported in places of detention.

Sexual violence in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza

Like for example in the West Bank. “UN-verified information has confirmed reports that the arrests and detention of Palestinian women and men by Israeli security forces after the October 7 attacks were often accompanied by beatings, ill-treatment and treatment and humiliation, including sexual assault, such as kicking in the genitals and threats of rape,” the report said.

He also mentions reports of “similar” violence committed in Gaza by Israeli forces after the launch of the ground offensive. Concerning the accusations of sexual violence committed by Hamas during the unprecedented attacks of October 7, he takes up the conclusions of its special representative Pramila Patten published at the beginning of March after a visit to Israel. Thus, “there are reasonable grounds to believe that sexual violence” such as rape and gang rape was committed on at least three sites on October 7.

And regarding the hostages taken by Hamas to Gaza, there is “clear and convincing information” that in particular rape and sexual torture “were inflicted on women and children during their captivity”. And “reasonable grounds to believe that such violence could continue.” In this context, the Secretary General calls for “the issue of conflict-related sexual violence to be taken into account in all political agreements and ceasefire agreements.”

It also calls on the Israeli government to treat detainees “humanely,” and “to immediately authorize the relevant United Nations agencies to fully investigate all alleged violations,” “so that justice can be done.”